Electronics are infiltrating everything we use, and the halls of 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here in Las Vegas are now home to the manufacturers and suppliers of the consumer electronics that we call automobiles. Amid acres of gizmos, Delphi displayed their “MyFi Connecting with Safety Vehicle”—an electronic smorgasbord of what is possible in today’s connected car.
Delphi retrofitted a Volvo XC60 with several enormous computer screens to help demonstrate what was possible. The most innovative feature was how MyFi determined a driver’s ability to process information. The vehicle can read and dictate text messages, but only when traffic patterns are calm enough. If there is a lot of traffic around or the speed is unstable, you would be notified that a text was received, but it could not be accessed. Slow down a bit and cruise along in the right lane, and now you get to hear and respond to the message. Of course, driving while texting hands-free is a distraction no matter which lane you’re in.
Another notable feature is active face tracking. The vehicle scans the driver and when they look away for more than two seconds, an alert signal flashes in the window causing the driver to look up at the road. Speech seems to always be part of the equation, and the vehicle utilizes conversational speech commands well. However, the voice sounds a little too much like iPhone’s Siri.
The concept vehicle also allows drivers to customize their infotainment experience remotely from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Large LCD displays allow for infinite configurability, and rather than sitting in the car working out your preferences, drivers could modify their cars in the comfort of their home. Drivers could also install apps remotely from an app store to access new features in their cars, such as social networks or navigation.
There is no doubt that the high-tech infotainment getting packed into cars these days can be very distracting. But the Delphi MyFi concept uses similar technology to try to allow drivers access all the information they want, while factoring safety. We hope that becomes the trend.
See our special section on distracted driving.